Rationality and the impossibility of absolute knowledge for subjective beings.

This essay will be dealing with the concepts of rationality and knowledge, and the abuse of these terms by presuppositionalist apologists.

I will first make statements of my own personal beliefs that will be clarified and defended in subsequent expanded arguments.

  1. I have no absolute knowledge of anything outside my subjective perceptions, nor does anyone else.
    (This will be true of every statement in this essay. But read the next point carefully.)
  2. Having no absolute knowledge does not equate to an inability to assess the likelihood of various propositions since I have access to my perception of regularity.
  3. Making statements about things for which I have a high degree of belief does not require that I have absolute knowledge in those statements since the default conventional definition of truth does not imply absolute knowledge.
  4. A rational position does not necessarily equate to an objectively true position.
  5. I am rational in my high degree of belief that an objective world exists based on the high degree of regularity I perceive.

Definition of terms

  • Objectivity: The world as it actually is, distinct from subjective perceptions.
  • Subjectivity: Where perception and other cognitive functions operate from within a single identity.
  • Rationality: The subjective alignment of the degree of belief in X to the degree of subjectively perceived evidence for X.
  • Belief: The subjective positioning certainty to a particular degree in respect to a proposition. There are both rational and irrational beliefs possible since the self need not position the degree of certainty to be commensurate to the degree of the perceived evidence.
  • Absolute Belief: The subjective positioning certainty to a 100% degree in respect to a proposition. This is not to be confused with omniscience which would apply to all possible propositions. It will be argued in this essay that absolute belief is impossible for a subjective being.
  • Knowledge: A vague term of various meanings, conventionally referring to a high degree of subjective belief in a high degree of evidence as subjectively assessed. An unstipulated use of “knowledge” in philosophical discourse has little utility due to its ambiguity.
  • Induction: The assessment of a subset of instances that can be used to formulate a generalization about the entire set of possible instances. Induction is foundational to scientific inquiry.

Rationality

Rationality requires only 2 subjective components, and no objective input.

Components of Rationality

  1. The subjective ability to perceive regularity.
  2. The subjective ability to assign a degree of belief that is commensurate to the degree of perceived regularity.

Example One: If a mother never tells a lie to her child for 10 years, that child is rational in believing to a high degree her mother’s claim “The house is on fire” whether or not the house is on fire.

Example Two: If a mother never tells the truth to her child for 10 years, that child is rational in disbelieving to a high degree her mother’s claim “The house is on fire” whether or not the house is on fire.

It can be seen from this that the objective truth of whether the house is on fire is irrelevant to a completely rational conclusion. Rationality does not require access to truth. It merely requires the perception of regularity (the history of the mother’s degree of honesty in this case), plus the ability to align the degree of belief to the degree of perceived regularity.

It follows from this that, intellectual integrity does not demand that one be correct, but only that one’s degree of belief in X be commensurate to the degree of the perceived evidence in X.

For this reason, due to the extremely high regularity in the perception that there is a material world in which I exist, I am rational in my extremely high degree of belief that it actually does.

Absolute Knowledge

Absolute knowledge in a proposition requires that the one claiming such knowledge have rationally positioned their degree of belief in X to the degree of the perceived degree of evidence for X.

Absolute knowledge is not possible since…

  1. Inductively derived evidence arrives to the subjective mind in degrees that never reaches the absolute (100%) point. This is evident in the very definition of induction.
  2. There is no possible mechanism through which a subjective being can acquire deductive evidence since the reliability of that mechanism would also need to be subjectively assessed with another mechanism, and that with another mechanism, ad infinitum.

Implications

Contrary to the claims of many, there is no absolute knowledge available to a subjective mind. Not even logic is absolutely known. We acquire logic from the time we are children, and because of its extremely high degree of reliability, we do not expect it to ever fail. We do not have absolute knowledge that it will not fail, but we are rational in our extremely strong belief that it will not due to our subjective perceptions of logic’s extreme reliability.

There is also little real utility in the philosophical definition of knowledge as “justified true belief” since “true” requires an objectivity not available to the subjective mind.

Attempted Rebuttles

  • What if every regularity you perceive is merely the deception of an “evil demon” manipulating your perceptions?
    This would not affect my rationality since rationality depends only on the perception of regularity, and the alignment of my degree of belief to the degree of the perceived regularity.
  • How can you make any statement of knowledge if your knowledge is not absolute?
    If I say “Dallas is in Texas”, I am consulting the perceived regularity of my memory, and the perceived regularity behind the books and people and other sources claiming Dallas is in Texas. I could be wrong due to an elaborate hoax or an “evil demon”, but I remain rational since the aggregate of the high degree of regularities I perceive justify my high degree of belief that Dallas is in Texas. Since I admit I could be wrong, I could be led to change my mind if other stronger regularities become available to my perception that sufficiently run contrary to the notion that Dallas is in Texas.
    So when I say Dallas is in Texas, I say this with full acknowledgement of my fallibility, and never imply I know it absolutely. This is the functional, conventional definition of “knowledge”, which lies in stark contrast to infallible “absolute knowledge” logically unavailable to subjective minds.

Implications

Christian presuppositionalists are the most common abusers of these concepts. For many of them it appears that the goal is to equivocate between conventional knowledge and absolute knowledge. They also fallaciously seem to think that their ideology will be proven correct if they can only prove the ideology of their detractor wrong. What follows are comments largely addressing their incoherent positions in respect to the concepts of rationality and knowledge.

  1. Those who claim to have absolute knowledge outside their subjective perceptions are wrong. Their absolute certainty is an irrational emotional artifact, with no possible evidential referent.
  2. Those who claim statements of knowledge are necessarily absolute knowledge claims are wrong. The default conventional denotation of (non-absolute) “knowledge” is assumed.
  3. Those who suggest statements are inherently incoherent if they are not held in absolute certainty are wrong. Falsehood is demonstrated through disconfirming evidence, not with hand-waving.
  4. The focus of those wishing to have intellectual integrity ought to be rationality. While truth presumably undergirds the regularity that informs our rationality, that truth is never directly accessible to a subjective mind.
  5. The “justified true belief” definition of knowledge has little utility since the “true” component requires an objectivity not available to a subjective mind.
  6. Any notion of “faith” that is not equivalent to a degree of belief commensurate to the degree of the perceived evidence is irrational. This applies to the faith of the bible in which a blessing is given to those who “have not seen, yet believed” rather than to those who believed only after they had seen.

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*Supplemental

Knowledge-presup (3)

(One way to easily show this notion of infallible knowledge held by a fallible mind is false is to place 2 presuppositionalists in 2 separate rooms, and ask them to make a list of all the infallibly true doctrines/facts they have access to. Their lists will be different demonstrating at least one of them is wrong.)

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One thought on “Rationality and the impossibility of absolute knowledge for subjective beings.

  1. […] And this brings us to Greg’s perennial blunder; he treats rational belief as if it were binary. It is not. Belief in propositions about the physical world are determined inductively. Since inductively derived evidence is normally obtained incrementally, rational belief must align itself with the balance of confirming/disconfirming evidence along the epistemic gradient. Belief in any inductively determined proposition inherently lies on a gradient. Both theists and atheists get this wrong. If the balance of evidence lies on a 90% probability, you are irrational if you position your belief at 100%. There are no exceptions for the rational mind. You may have to “commit” to a categorical position at times where you have less than 100% certainty such as in the acceptance of a job, but that does not require an epistemic commitment of 100%, and such an epistemic commitment after a binary 100% choice on a 90% probability assessment would be irrational.More on this here, here and here. […]

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